Hall of Fame Travel Companion

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Al Smith

Outfielder Al Smith was traded three times during his 12-year major league career. In the first two of those trades, to Chicago and to Baltimore, Smith had the distinction of being traded with a future Hall of Famer. He also distinguished himself as a good hitter whose legs and bat produced plenty of runs. Continue reading

The Mark of a Master

 

The Glove Club: Mark Belanger

By all human logic, it would seem to be impossible to stand out as a defensive player in an infield that featured the greatest defensive third baseman who ever played the game. But Mark Belanger did. He joined the Baltimore Orioles infield in 1967, and spent most of his major league career playing shortstop beside the incomparable Brooks Robinson. Continue reading

Welcome to the Homer Ward

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Pete Ward

While it’s no overstatement to say that pitching dominated the 1960s, it’s just as safe to say that, in the 1960s, pitching dominated the Chicago White Sox, especially in that team’s contending seasons.

Pete Ward was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1963 with a .295 batting average, 22 home runs and 84 RBIs.

Pete Ward was the runner-up for American League Rookie of the Year in 1963 with a .295 batting average, 22 home runs and 84 RBIs.

With solid starting arms such as Gary Peters, Joe Horlen and Juan Pizarro, and relievers such as Hoyt Wilhelm and Eddie Fisher, the White Sox featured the league’s deepest staff. And they needed it, with also one of the weakest hitting lineups in the American League.

The one “power” spot in the White Sox lineup came from a left-handed batter named Pete Ward.

Ward was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1958 and appeared in eight games with the Orioles at the end of 1962. That winter he was a throw-in in the blockbuster trade that brought Ron Hansen, Dave Nicholson and Wilhelm to the White Sox for Luis Aparicio and Al Smith.

Ward replaced Smith at third for the White Sox and made an immediate impact, beating the Detroit Tigers on Opening Day with a seventh-inning home run, the start of an 18-game hitting streak. For the season Ward hit .295, fifth in the American League, with 22 home runs, 84 RBIs, and 80 runs. He finished second in the league in total bases (289), hits (177), and doubles (34), and was named American League Rookie of the Year.

Ward followed up in 1964 by hitting .282 with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs. An off-season auto accident led to back and neck problems that would plague him, and cut his offensive productivity, for the rest of his career. He slipped to 10 home runs in 1965 and only three in 1966.

Ward made something of a comeback in 1967 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs, but the weak Chicago lineup meant fewer good pitches to hit. His 18 home runs led the team, with only two other White Sox hitting as many as 10 home runs that season. His walks increased to 61 in 1967, and then to 76 in 1968, when Ward hit .216 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs.

Lingering injuries forced Ward into a part-time role in 1969, and he spent one year as a reserve player for the New York Yankees in 1970 before retiring.

Ward finished his nine-year career with a .254 batting average and 98 home runs.

Hittin’ Like Hinton

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Chuck Hinton

For more than a decade, Chuck Hinton was a dependable hitter and outfielder for three different American League teams. He remains the last Washington Senators player to hit .300 in a season.

Chuck Hinton was fourth in the American League in 1962 with a .310 average.

Chuck Hinton was fourth in the American League in 1962 with a .310 average.

Hinton was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1956. He was selected by the Washington Senators in the 1960 expansion draft, and hit .260 as a rookie for the Senators in 1961.

He had one of the most productive bats in the American League in 1962. Hinton hit .310 to finish fourth in batting, with 17 home runs and 75 RBIs, both career bests. He also stole 28 bases, second in the league to Luis Aparicio. His offensive numbers slipped over the next two season, though Hinton remained Washington’s best overall offensive threat. He batted .269 with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs in 1963. He was an All-Star in 1964, batting .274 with 11 home runs and 53 RBIs.

After the 1964 season, Washington traded Hinton to the Cleveland Indians for first baseman Bob Chance and infielder Woodie Held. Hinton batted .255 for the Tribe in 1965, with 18 home runs and 55 RBIs. He would never match those hitting statistics again in a single season.

A career .264 hitter, Chuck Hinton batted .318 with the Cleveland Indians in 1970.

A career .264 hitter, Chuck Hinton batted .318 with the Cleveland Indians in 1970.

After two more years with Cleveland, Hinton was traded to the California Angels for outfielder Jose Cardenal. After one season with the Angels (when he batted .195 in a part-time role), Hinton returned to Cleveland in exchange for outfielder Lou Johnson. He played three more seasons for Cleveland before retiring after the 1971 season. He hit a career-best .318 for the Indians in 1970.

Hinton retired after 11 major league seasons with a .264 career batting average.

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Bosox Basher

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Rico Petrocelli

While lighter-hitting shortstops were the norm in the 1960s (once Ernie Banks moved from shortstop to first base), the Boston Red Sox had a shortstop who bucked that trend with power and RBIs. Rico Petrocelli was the most lethal offensive threat among American League shortstops in the late 1960s.

Rico Petrocelli was the first American League shortstop to hit 40 home runs in a season (1969).

Rico Petrocelli was the first American League shortstop to hit 40 home runs in a season (1969).

Petrocelli was signed by Boston in 1961 and played his entire major league career with the Red Sox. As a rookie in 1965, PetroceIli hit .232 with 13 home runs and 33 RBIs – numbers that would have been considered adequate for a shortstop of Petrocelli’s defensive abilities.

He increased his home run production to 18 in 1966 and, in Boston’s pennant-winning season of 1967, Petrocelli hit .259 with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs. He was selected for the American League All-Star team in 1967, and finished seventeenth in the MVP voting at the end of that season.

Petrocelli’s best season came two years later when he set an American League record for home runs by a shortstop with 40. He also drove in 97 runs and had career highs in hits (159) and batting average (.297).  He followed that campaign with two more strong seasons, hitting 29 home runs (with 103 RBIs) in 1970 and 28 homers (with 89 RBIs) in 1971. Petrocelli moved to third base in 1971 to accommodate the arrival of Luis Aparicio in Boston. He remained the Red Sox starting third baseman for the next six seasons, averaging 14 home runs and 61 RBIs per season.

Rico Petrocelli played 13 major league seasons, all with the Boston Red Sox.

Petrocelli was known for his offense, which over-shadowed his considerable defensive skills. He led all American League shortstops in fielding percentage in 1968 and 1969, and led all AL third basemen in fielding percentage in 1971.

Petrocelli retired after the 1976 season, his thirteenth in a Boston uniform. A two-time All-Star, Petrocelli finished with 210 career home runs, 127 as a shortstop (sixteenth most all-time).  His 40 home run season as an AL shortstop has been surpassed only by Alex Rodriguez.

Man of Many Positions

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bert Campaneris

The Kansas City (and later, Oakland) Athletics had few bright spots during the 1960s. Six times during that decade, the A’s lost at least 90 games, and three times lost more than 100. Prior to the introduction of divisional play in 1969, the Athletics’ best finish was sixth in 1968, the first time in the 1960s that the A’s finished above .500.

In 1965, Bert Campaneris became the first major league player to play all nine field positions in a single game.

In 1965, Bert Campaneris became the first major league player to play all nine field positions in a single game.

The only real bright spot for the franchise during the 1960s was the acquisition and development of a stable of young, talented players who would jell at the end of the 1960s and spur the Oakland Athletics’ championship years in the early 1970s. One of the first of those foundation players was a fleet Cuban native named Dagoberto Campaneris.

“Bert” Campaneris came up with the A’s as their shortstop in 1964, hitting a home run in his first at-bat and two homers in his first game. As an indication of things to come, that performance was misleading, as Campaneris’ primary offensive weapon was speed, not power. Starting in 1965, Campaneris led the league in stolen bases in each of his first four seasons and in six out of his first eight years with the A’s. When Campaneris led the American League with 51 stolen bases in 1965, he ended Luis Aparicio’s nine-year reign as AL base-stealing champ (1956-1964).

Campaneris led the league in triples in 1965 (12) and in hits in 1968 (177). During the 1960s, he batted a combined .264 with 292 stolen bases.

Starting in 1965, Bert Campaneris led the American League in stolen bases in each of his first four seasons.

Starting in 1965, Bert Campaneris led the American League in stolen bases in each of his first four seasons.

Campaneris was the A’s shortstop and lead-off for a dozen years. However, he was talented enough to play every position and, on September 8, 1965, Campaneris did just that. In a night game against the California Angels, he became the first major league player to field every position, giving up one run in the inning he pitched in a 5-3 loss. (Campaneris did not figure in the decision). His only error in that nine-position game occurred in right field. He was error-free in six chances at other positions and, ironically, had no fielding chances during the inning he played his everyday position, shortstop.

A five-time All-Star, Campaneris is still the Athletics’ career leader in games (1,795), at-bats (7,180) and hits (1,882).

Grace and Guts at Short

 

The Glove Club: Ron Hansen

Ron Hansen was hardly the prototype for the 1960s shortstop. The shortstops of that era tended to be physically compact and quick, with sure hands and a bat loaded mostly with singles. That was the prescription for the shortstops of that era, led notably by the likes of Luis Aparicio, Tony Kubek, Dick Groat and Roy McMillan. (The glaring exception, of course, was Ernie Banks, the game’s best slugging shortstop since Honus Wagner.)

Ron Hansen was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1960, when he hit 22 home runs with 86 RBIs for the Baltimore Orioles.

Ron Hansen was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1960, when he hit 22 home runs with 86 RBIs for the Baltimore Orioles.

Hansen stood out from that group, both physically and as a hitter. He was huge by shortstop standards, standing six-foot, three inches and weighing nearly 200 pounds. And he could hit with power. He hit 22 home runs with 86 RBIs in 1960, when he was an All-Star and the American League Rookie of the Year. Both marks proved to be career bests for Hansen, who was plagued by back problems throughout his baseball career. From 1963 through 1965 – the only consecutive full seasons he could manage in a 15-year major league career – he averaged 13 home runs and 66 runs batted in.

But any hitting was a bonus. Hansen’s strength was his defense. And it was formidable.

He was graceful, almost fluid, as a shortstop, and quicker than he appeared. He had great range and a great arm. He made any infield a better defensive unit, and made pitchers better with his presence in the field.

As a rookie with the Baltimore Orioles in 1960, Hansen led American League shortstops in putouts. He led the league again in putouts in 1964 as a member of the Chicago White Sox. He led American League shortstops twice in double plays and four times in assists. Inexplicably, he never received a Gold Glove for his consistently outstanding fielding.

Playing for the Washington Senators in 1968, Ron Hansen completed the first unassisted triple play in the American League in 41 years.

Playing for the Washington Senators in 1968, Ron Hansen completed the first unassisted triple play in the American League in 41 years.

In 1965, Hansen set a record for handling 28 chances at shortstop in a double header. Playing for the Washington Senators in 1968, he completed the first unassisted triple play in the American League in 41 years.

When he first saw Hansen play as a rookie, New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel remarked to the press, “That kid looks like he was born at shortstop.”

Maybe he was.

Speed Wins

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Lou Brock

The most famous – and most productive – trade in St. Louis Cardinals history was made on June 15, 1964. The Cardinals sent a pair of former 20-game winners, Ernie Broglio and Bobby Shantz, along with outfielder Doug Clemens, to the Chicago Cubs for three players: Pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth, and an outfielder named Lou Brock.

Lou Brock twice led the National League in runs scored, with 113 in 1967 and 126 in 1971.

Lou Brock twice led the National League in runs scored, with 113 in 1967 and 126 in 1971.

Lou Brock had a fabulous second half for the Cardinals in 1964. In 103 games, he hit .348 and scored 84 runs, with nine triples, 12 home runs, 44 RBIs and 33 stolen bases. He was the offensive spark plug for a Cardinal team that won its first pennant since 1946. In the World Series against the New York Yankees, Brock was instrumental in helping St. Louis take the championship, batting .300 with five RBIs and nine hits in seven games, including two doubles and a home run.

Brock’s performance was no fluke. He led the league in stolen bases each year from 1966 to 1969. His best year offensively was during the Cardinals’ pennant-winning season of 1967. Brock had career highs in hits (206), triples (12), home runs (21), RBIs (76) and batted .299. He led the majors with 113 runs scored.

In the 1967 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, Brock hit .414 with 12 hits and three stolen bases as the Cardinals took the Series four games to three. In 1968, Brock capped another strong regular season – when he led the major leagues in doubles (46), triples (14), and stolen bases (62) – by elevating his performance again in the Fall Classic. Against the Detroit Tigers, Brock hit .464 with 13 hits in seven games. His hits included three doubles, a triple and two home runs. Brock also drove in five runs and stole seven bases. His performance probably would have made him a strong candidate for World Series Most Valuable Player had the Cardinals been able to hold on and win the Series’ seventh game.

Brock finished his career with the Cardinals, retiring in 1979 with 3,023 hits and, at the time, the career record for stolen bases with 938. He eventually broke Maury Wills’ single-season record for stolen bases with 118 in 1974.

Lou Brock was baseball’s most prolific base stealer during the 1960s. He led the National League in steals from 1966-1969.

Lou Brock was baseball’s most prolific base stealer during the 1960s. He led the National League in steals from 1966-1969.

He was the most prolific base stealer during the 1960s, with 430 (Luis Aparicio was tops in the American League with 342 stolen bases during the decade).  And though Brock recorded over 3,000 hits during his career, he never led the league in that category.

Brock was an All-Star six times. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

 

 

 

 

 

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On-Base Expert

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Tito Francona

Tito Francona could flat-out hit. He wasn’t known for big power numbers. But he knew how to get on base, move base runners, and make runs happen.

Tito Francona had the American league's highest batting average in 1959 at .363, but fell 34 plate appearances short of qualifying for the batting title.

Tito Francona had the American League’s highest batting average in 1959 at .363, but fell 34 plate appearances short of qualifying for the batting title.

Francona was signed by the St. Louis Browns in 1952. He spent only 3 years in the minors (plus time out for military service), hitting a combined .292, and made his major league debut in 1956 with the Baltimore Orioles, hitting .258. He was runner-up in the Rookie-of-the-Year balloting to Chicago’s Luis Aparicio.

After the 1957 season, Francona was traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of a seven-player deal, and in June of 1958 he was dealt again, this time to the Detroit Tigers. He played sparingly for the Tigers, hitting only .246, and was traded for a third time in a little more than a year, this time to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Larry Doby.

Getting the chance to play every day, Francona blossomed for the Indians. He had a monster year in 1959, hitting .363 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs, but fell short of the number of official at-bats needed to qualify for the batting title. (Harvey Kuenn officially led the American League in hitting in 1959 with a .353 average.) But Francona’s contributions to Cleveland’s third-place finish that season did not go unnoticed, as he finished fifth in the balloting for Most Valuable Player.

In 1960, Francona followed up with a .292 batting average, leading the American League with 36 doubles. In 1961, he hit .301 with career highs in hits (178), triples (8) and RBIs (85). He was also a member of the All-Star team that season. He hit .272 in 1962 with 14 home runs and 70 RBIs.

Then, inexplicably, his hitting tailed off dramatically. He hit only .228 in 1963 and .248 in 1964. The St. Louis Cardinals purchased Francona following the 1964 season, and he hit a combined .236 in his 2 seasons with St. Louis.

Over the next three seasons, Francona played for four different teams. As a part-time player, he hit .286 for Atlanta in 1968 and hit for a combined .318 for Atlanta and Oakland in 1969. He finished his 15-year major league career with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970.

Francona had 1,395 hits and a .272 career batting average.

The Man Who Put the Knuckleball into the Hall of Fame

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Hoyt Wilhelm

It’s probably the most unhittable pitch in baseball (with apologies to any pitch ever thrown by Sandy Koufax). And it may be the most unpitchable.

During the 1960s, Hoyt Wilhelm won 75 games and saved 152 more, with an ERA of 2.19 for the decade.

During the 1960s, Hoyt Wilhelm won 75 games and saved 152 more, with an ERA of 2.19 for the decade.

The knuckleball is slow, it doesn’t rotate, and it doesn’t offer many clues as to where it will end up.  But one pitcher, more than any, is associated with the knuckleball, and was such a master of its unpredictability that it floated him all the way to Cooperstown.

Hoyt Wilhelm broke into the major leagues with the New York Giants in 1952 – as a 29-year-old rookie. That year he led the National League in winning percentage (.833 on a 15-3 record), in games pitched (71, all in relief) and in earned run average (2.43). In his first major league at-bat, he hit a home run (the only one of his career).

For more than two decades thereafter, Wilhelm remained one of the game’s most durable and productive relievers. He entered the 1960s in the middle of a five-year stretch with the Baltimore Orioles. After a brief stint as a starter for the Orioles (in his fourth major league start, he pitched a no-hitter), Wilhelm recorded 33 saves over the next two years, second best in the American League to Luis Arroyo’s 36. Then he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in the deal that brought Luis Aparicio to the Orioles. In six years with Chicago, Wilhelm appeared in 361 games for the White Sox, all but three as a reliever. He saved 98 games, with an ERA of 1.92 for the six years combined. Wilhelm closed out the 1960s by splitting the 1969 season between the California Angels and the Atlanta Braves, with a total of 14 saves and a combined ERA of 2.19.

Throughout the 1960s, no relief pitcher was as consistently effective as Wilhelm. During those 10 years, he won 75 games and saved 152 more, with an ERA of 2.19 for the decade. His career lasted two years beyond the 1960s, with his retirement after the 1971 season at age 48. His 1,070 career appearances were the major league record at the time Wilhelm called it quits.

Today Wilhelm still ranks fifth in most career games by a pitcher. He remains the all-time major league leader in career wins in relief (124) and career innings pitched in relief (1,871). Opponents’ career batting average against Wilhelm was only .216, lower than batters’ career averages against fellow Hall-of-Famers Tom Seaver (.226), Catfish Hunter (.231) and Rollie Fingers (.235).

 

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